PhD Studentship - Development of an Innovative Approach for Condition Assessment of Railway Track Substructure

Aston University - Engineering and Applied Science

Contract Type: Fixed Term (for 3 years)

Closing Date: 23.59 hours GMT on Tuesday 31 October 2017

Interview Date: To be confirmed

Applications are invited for a three year Postgraduate studentship, supported by the School of Engineering and Applied Science, to be undertaken within the Engineering Systems and Management Academic Group and Aston Institute of Material Research (AIMR) at Aston University The successful applicant will join an established research group working on infrastructure modelling.

The position is available to start in January 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Financial Support
This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the home/EU fees rate plus a maintenance allowance of £14,553 in 2017/18.

Applicants from outside the EU may apply for this studentship but will need to pay the difference between the ‘Home/EU’ and the ‘Overseas’ tuition fees, currently this is £12,005 in 2017/18.  As part of the application process confirmation that this funding support is in place will be required.

Background of the Project
Every year a substantial sum of expenditure is spent on maintenance and renewal of railway infrastructure – e.g. Network Rail currently spends £3.5bn p.a. on infrastructure maintenance and renewal. Frequent condition assessment of rail transport infrastructure can effectively reduce this cost. The falling weight deflectometer (FWD) is a testing device to evaluate the structural integrity and condition assessment of pavement layer. In the UK, the FWD test is used for condition assessment of ballasted railway track. In this technique, using the deflection data obtained from the test and a numerical model of the problem, elastic modulus of the track substructure are back-calculated. The most common approach for the FWD test back-calculation is the static linear elastic analysis where a single value representing elastic moduli is found for each substructure layer. However, the linear elastic analysis ignores the dynamic nature of the problem and overlooks the non-linear complex behaviour of the track substructure material. The idealisation compromises the benefits of the FWD test resulting in overestimation or underestimation of material stiffness. Furthermore, it is well established that the behaviour of soil and granular geo-materials is complex and far from the simple linear elastic assumptions. Therefore, in this research project the use of dynamic finite element (FE) analysis to back-calculate the material properties of the railway substructure from FWD deflection data will be investigated. Moreover, an innovative approach will be developed to determine the nonlinear and complex behaviour of the ballasted substructure materials.

Person Specification
The successful applicant should have a first class or upper second class honours degree or equivalent qualification in Civil Engineering, Geotechnical Engineering or any other related discipline. Preferred skill requirements include knowledge/experience of numerical modelling (finite element method in particular), computer programming, and railway transport infrastructure materials. 

For informal enquiries about this project, contact Dr Moura Mehravar by email

If you require further information about the application process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at

The online application form, reference forms and details of entry requirements, including English language are available here.

Applications should also be accompanied by a brief review of relevant research literature.

Details of how to write your research proposal are also included in the How to Apply section.

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Midlands of England